Hair of the Lion Cocktail

National Hairball Day

Your cocktail calendar entry for: April
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Here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’re mixing up the Hair of the Lion cocktail in honor of National Hairball Day.  Observed the last Friday of April each year, it pays honor to…well…hairballs.  Let’s be clear:  we’re not talking about “furball” as a term of endearment for pets.  We’re talking about hairballs, what some pets hock up onto the sofa, and there’s a national day for it.

Sure, there are other historical events today.  Things like the world’s first parachute jump, or Harper Lee’s birthday, that may be considered more significant or culturally enriching.  But because we don’t understand why anyone wants to honor hairballs we figured it’s a good reason for a drink.


As you probably know, a hairball is a small collection of hair, i.e., fur, formed in the stomach of animals.  Technically, it’s called a trichobezoar, meaning a mass trapped in the gastrointestinal system from the ingestion of hair.

Cats, of course, groom themselves by licking their fur and you can guess where some of that hair ends up.  It sits there in the stomach, entirely indigestible, until it gets too big and they hurl it out.  This is distinguished from sport vomiting, the technicolor yawn, cats sometimes employ on carpets (never tile).

But think again before you conclude this is strictly a pastime of cats.  Rabbits groom themselves the same way and are also prone to hairballs.  And they’re dangerous in rabbits because they can’t barf them up somewhere.  Even cows, goats, sheep llamas and deer can accumulate hairballs.  The cows win in hairball size, but they generally become deadly after they’ve gotten to be about four inches.

And in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes – humans can get hairballs too.  It happens occasionally in those with a history of psychiatric disorders, trichotillomania (habit of hair pulling) and trichopahagia (habit of chewing hair).  It’s not good, and they’ve been removed surgically in sizes up to nine pounds.  Keep your hair out of your mouth.

But let’s get back to cats as that’s pretty much where any of us may encounter a hairball here and there.  Cats with long hair are more prone to them, but the best prevention is simply to brush the cat regularly and remove loose hair.  Besides, they usually like being brushed and may reward you by tossing the next hairball onto a tile rather than the carpet.

Hair of the Lion Cocktail

The Hair of the Lion cocktail is a simple choice for National Hairball Day.  After all, Lions are cats.  It’s an extension of an early 20th century drink known as the Lion’s Tail.  The Lion’s Tail came to light when it was published in the Café Royal Cocktail Book in 1937, but it is unclear who invented the drink.

The Lion’s Tail was comprised of bourbon, lime and allspice dram.  It’s an odd mix, because lime doesn’t usually work as well as lemon with whiskeys, and was largely forgotten.  As was allspice dram.

Allspice dram is also known as pimento dram, since that’s what they call allspice in Jamaica.  It’s made by macerating allspice, cinnamon and brown sugar in Jamaican rum.  Pretty simple, delicious and a critical element in some tiki drinks.

Allspice dram reappeared in the U.S. around 2008.  This is good, as it’s delicious and commonly used in tiki drinks.  That resulted in a resurrection of the Lion’s Tail and it was only a matter of time before various bartenders created Mr. Potato Head style variations.

Come 2011 or so, Adam Harness of the North Star Bartender’s Guild created the Hair of the Lion.  He substituted Jamaican rum for the bourbon and added egg white in the vein of classics like the Whiskey Sour.

hair of the lion cocktail

Hair of the Lion Cocktail

A rum-based variation on the Whiskey Sour, the Hair of the Lion brings in Allspice Dram to spice things up a bit. You can make your own allspice dram with a bit of allspice and rum, but St. Elizabeth is a readily available brand out there and you'll want it to expand your tiki repertoire.
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  • Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
  • Dry shake to emulsify. In other words, seal the shaker without ice and shake vigorously.
  • Open strainer, add ice.
  • Shake with ice until frosty cold.
  • Strain into pre-chilled coupe glass.
  • Drink.
  • Keep an eye on the cat.
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